Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Matthew 9:9-13 “God Calls Sinners” Pastor Josh Bodden June 21, 2020
Give thanks to the LORDq, for he is good; his love endures forever. Amen.
God calls sinners. That’s a sentence that we maybe don’t want to hear. God doesn’t call the pretty okay. The better than average. He doesn’t call those who are just about there. He doesn’t call them because they don’t exist. He calls sinners. He calls the lost. He calls the wicked, the evil, the downright awful. We don’t like to hear that because it says a lot about us! But look at some of the people in the Bible who were called. Matthew was a tax collector, not exactly the most upstanding citizen. Tax collectors weren’t exactly known for their love of God. But Jesus came to Matthew while he was sitting at his tax collector’s booth and said, “Follow me.” Paul was no prize. He describes himself this way to Timothy: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” (1 Timoth 1:13a) A man who was proud of all of the Christians he arrested and sent to their deaths. God chose him? Well, Paul wasn’t the first questionable candidate for heaven and he certainly wasn’t the last. Let’s take a peek at King David. God says about David: “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people…” (1 Samuel 13:14b) But this is the same David who had an affair with a married woman, tried to hide the fact with lies and deception, and finally just took care of it by killing off the woman’s husband. But this is a man that God called to faith? Couldn’t God have found someone more worthy of heaven? How about David’s great-great-grandmother: Rahab? A woman who had a very…ungodly job before she was a believer. But God called this woman of “ill repute” to faith and even made her one of the ancestors of Jesus. We could keep going. We could talk about what a mess that Solomon was, or how Peter burned either hot or cold. We could discuss the Corinthians and the situations they had in their congregations. But where do we stop? Because if we are going to list off all of the sinners in the Bible that God called to faith then we are going to have to spend time on every one of them. And if we open up that discussion to every person in the whole world that God has called to faith, then be prepared to find your name on that list. Highlighted. And underlined. In bold letters.
There is a constant temptation that we all face. Every day. It’s the sin of self-righteousness. It’s easy to point to the sins of others all while we ignore our own sins. After all, our sins are no where near as bad as that persons. “Just look at them! Look how awful they are. What terribly sick depraved sinners they are. To bad they aren’t like me.” If only the sins of self righteousness were always that blatant and obvious. But they aren’t. Our sins of self righteousness are often quiet. Like the times when we start categorizing which sins are worse than others. Because everyone knows that certain sins are the really bad ones. The ones we condemn and scream at others for committing. Certain life choices are really the evil sins. And then we find ourselves willing to talk to certain people but not others. Because. Well. You know. Their sins make us feel uncomfortable. Or the times when we make peace with the sins in our lives. When we make jokes about the things that we know we really shouldn’t be doing. But what’s just one little sin. Everyone needs one vice, right? We shake our heads at the sins out in the world, at the things our friends are doing, at the foolish things our family is up to. It’s really too bad they aren’t more like us.
That was one of the biggest problems with the Pharisees. They had no problems seeing the sins of others. But to have anything to do with God, you needed to have a certain level of perfection. Do you remember the parable that Jesus told about the Pharisee and the Tax collector? They happen to go into the temple at the same time to pray. The tax collector couldn’t even bring himself to get too close to the temple. He stands back and pours out his heart to God pleading for forgiveness: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But the pharisee? He pats himself on the back, bragging about himself. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18:9-13) Is that us? Do we ignore our sins as we list off the sins of others? Do we pat ourselves on the back for our good works while we turn our backs on those sinners out there?
Jesus didn’t come to call the perfect, because there are none. He came for the weak, the dying, the lost. He came to call sinners. And he has called you and me. Along with Paul, David, Rahab, Solomon, and every other believer we have been made worthy by his blood. Because he came for lost and made us found. One of my favorite images from the Bible is Moses standing before the burning bush. Here was a man who was a known murderer—a man who struggled with anger issues— looking at this strange sight of a bush on fire but it wasn’t burning up. And from the middle of this bush God’s voice calls to him “Moses! Moses!” And this sinner responds, “Here I am.” God reveals himself to Moses and tells him
about this great plan that he has for his people. That he will use Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses doesn’t say, “Well of course. That makes perfect sense. I am the right choice. I have the education, the ability, and the authority. Good thing I’m here for you God!” Instead he realizes that he isn’t worthy. He is sick with the disease of sin. “Who am I that I should do these things?” God’s response: “I will be with you.” (Exodus 31-15) Or how about when Jesus was eating with the tax collectors? These men made themselves rich off of the pain of others. They taxed their fellow Israelites more than there were supposed to put the extra money in their own pockets. And this Jesus who claims he is from God actually spends time with them? Who does he think he is? He is the great physician who sees those who need healing. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ v For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
God calls sinners. He came to you in your sickness of sin and disease of death and our perfect physician brought you healing. He removed your sickness and disease. He made you healthy and innocent. All of your sins gone. Even our sins of self-righteousness and arrogance. Those times we ignored our sins while judging the sins of others. Forgiven. Because God came to us who needed him the most and healed us. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
When God came to us we were just like Matthew, or Moses, or David, or Rahab, or any other believer who will ever live. We were sinners. And through his Word he said to us “Follow me.” With faith worked in our hearts by his power we realize that who were failures are now perfect. God’s love makes us complete. And he promises: “I will be with you” That’s what moved Matthew to serve Jesus as a disciple and Paul to serve as a missionary even to death. It’s what made Moses determined to serve the Israelites. It’s what made David a great king. It’s what brought Solomon back from his foolishness to the wisdom of God. And it’s what made Rahab the great-great-great-great- etc. grandmother of Jesus. When we realize that God doesn’t come for the pretty okay but instead the absolute lost, the way we see the world changes. God calls sinners. Those people you have cut out of your life because you’re embarrassed by their sins? God wants them to hear his call and to know that he forgives. He wants them to know that they will be changed by his power and with his strength they can turn away from sin. Those people in your life that you used to look down on because of their mistakes and life choices? He wants them to hear his call. Family members who you used to avoid because you didn’t know how to talk to them? God is calling for them too. And now they can hear his call, through you. Unlike the Pharisees who kept God to themselves and those they thought deserved him we understand. It’s not that we ignore sin or act like sin isn’t a problem! Instead we know that no one can turn away from their sins without God! Only he brings the healing power to turn people away from those things which hurts their relationship with God. God isn’t for the healthy. He is for the sick and the diseased. So, brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s bring his message to those who need to hear it. Let’s bring it to the lost. Let’s bring it to those suffering with the disease of sin. Because we who were once lost sinners know the truth. God calls sinners into his kingdom and by his Word he heals them and strengthens them. And we still need that message of grace and forgiveness every day. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Amen.